Michael Jordan and Lebron James are arguably the two most famous basketball players in history. (Connor Bulgrin)
Michael Jordan and Lebron James are arguably the two most famous basketball players in history.

Connor Bulgrin

Debate of Famous Hoop Legends

Battle of Best Basketball Stars, Lebron James, Michael Jordan

May 22, 2020

Michael Jordan and Lebron James are arguably the two most famous basketball players in history. Connor Bulgrin and Zane Mrozla-Mindrup present their arguments for the greatest. Which player will you choose?

Lebron James 

 

In every competitive sport, there is always an argument on who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). In professional basketball two of the main front runners for the title are Lebron James and Michael Jordan. The two players have some of the best statistics in NBA history and are constantly compared to one another. In my opinion, James is definitely the GOAT.

James set himself apart right away with his NBA career starting straight out of high school. While Jordan took the time to play college basketball, James was too good and decided to join the NBA. He was the first pick in the 2003 draft, while Jordan was the third pick in the 1984 draft. Both won Rookie of the Year respectively, but James was18, not 22. He did not need the time to mature his skills in college he knew he was ready for the big leagues right away.

Usually, comparisons can be decided by statistics or win-loss records; however, this one is different because the two players have very similar resumes. The major difference that sets them apart is how many championships they have won. Jordan led a team to the NBA Finals six times and won all of them. Meanwhile, James led a team to the Finals eight times in a row and only won three. This is where Jordan supporters get all of their arguments. One argument is that James’ inability to win championships is what keeps him below Jordan. However, there is a key aspect that they leave out. Jordan had a few of the best teams in NBA history with him. On the other hand, James had good talent, but nothing near what Jordan had. James was forced to play his best the entire game while Jordan was only needed for clutch finishes or tough games. James had to be on his best game no matter what.

Another aspect of James’ championship deficit is the league he plays in is way better than what it was in the ’90s when Jordan played. The game has become less physical, and more about the offensive attack and shooting. It is natural for sports to improve as time goes on, but in this modern era, things are changing quickly. With new technology, athletes can train better and smarter. New medical science lets athletes recover from injuries better and faster. All of these things have led to all athletes tremendously increasing their skill. The teams that Jordan played were just not as good as the teams James has had to play. Some statistics even show that some of the worst teams in the NBA could match up against Jordan’s squad. Statistics from the 2018-19 New York Knicks, the worst team in the league, are comparable to Jordan’s best team. Because the style of the game has changed, the Bulls would still have probably won, but it would be closer than most people think. 

Overall, there is no question the James is the GOAT of the NBA. His image will forever be remembered in the NBA. His nickname ‘The King’ should be an obvious signal that he truly is the best.  His unrelenting quest for championships even with undermanned teams shows that he is definitely the best.

 

 

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Michael Jordan

 

It is an age-old NBA question, how is NBA success measured? For those naive enough to measure success in titles, it would be Celtics great Bill Russell with 11. For the statisticians who measure in metrics like career point, then its Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387. For the more memory-oriented, “clutch” players like Larry Bird take the crown. Yet in all of those categories, there is one man who is a mean. He finds his way in the middle of almost every conversation there is to be had about NBA basketball, Michael Jordan.

Chiefly, Jordan did something that the likes of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant never did. He went to college. Jordan started building his lore in his home at the University of North Carolina. With numerous awards and incredible moments to his name before he ever stepped on the professional hardwood.

Taken by Chicago with the third pick in the 1984 NBA draft, He set the NBA on fire in his first season being voted an all-star and winning rookie of the year. Despite a blazing start to his career, the Bulls he led were unable to find playoff success in the first decade of Jordan’s career. Several playoff runs were halted by the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s whose “Jordan Rules,” a system of aggressive triple-team defense and hard fouls designed to stop him from scoring, overwhelmed Jordan. An entire system of defense had to be created by Detroit just to stop Jordan from finding a way to the hoop whereas teams regularly put a stop to James’s scoring forcing him to distribute the ball to players around him.

The cementing factor of Jordan’s greatness is the titles, all six of them. In the 1990-91 season, the rest of the NBA could no longer keep him down his Bulls exploded to a title victory over the legendary Lakers followed by two more title wins over incredibly talented teams the Portland TrailBlazers and the Phoenix Suns. A title three-peat. Jordan did it twice while James has just three titles and only two of them in succession.

Jordan’s sustained greatness was astounding and demonstrated best by his retirement in 1994 which was subsequently followed by a return bigger and better than ever in 1995 for a dynasty continuance with three more titles over the Seattle SuperSonics and twice over the Utah Jazz. Led by Jordan the team posted the best records in NBA history at the time and incredible performances such as the “flu game” asserted his dominance. James’ modern career has seen him sit out on several occasions to rest.

More than all the records, awards, and titles, Jordan is part of the culture of American sports and even sports in general. His silhouette appears as the Air Jordan logo on clothing and shoes around the world. Jordan represented a city and is literally set in stone in front of the Bulls’ arena. He represented a nation as the star of the star-studded 1992 USA Olympic “Dream Team.” Jordan is synonymous with basketball and it is hard to imagine the game without him. He was the first superstar and casts a shadow that is just too big to be replicated by anyone else, even Lebron James. 

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